By the time we got to the Expat, it had already been a long, zigzaggy Friday. We’d driven from Atlanta to Franklin County, pigged out on fish fry, then motored south to Athens — preventing to peer into more than one extra eating place inside the name of dining studies. We were tired and thirsty, however, no longer in particular hungry.
Then we took a sip of the Expat’s exquisitely crafted cocktails, watched the afternoon mild dance via the home windows of this stunning Nineteen Thirties bungalow-grew to become-bistro, ordered a plate of feather-light gougeres, and felt our cares melt. Why rush home for a rush hour when we could linger over spring toast and escargot?
And much like that, we fell beneath the spell of the Expat, the Athens hang-out of former Atlantan restaurateurs Jerry and Krista Slater. If you’re acquainted with the Slater call, you probably know that Jerry based the whole lot-loved H. Harper Station back. At the same time, the property becomes a lovingly restored education depot and cocktail destination. (Today, it’s the home of Muchacho and Golden Eagle.) Though H. Harper’s food ought to in no way quite match its mixology, it enjoyed a fabled six-12 months run, critical to the town’s craft cocktail motion and a precursor to the present-day Memorial Drive construction boom.
In 2016, the Slaters closed H. Harper and set about carving out a brand new perceive in this revolutionary University of Georgia metropolis. Chef Hugh Acheson and business enterprise solid a powerful shadow. Jerry studied literature in university and has impeccable hospitality credentials (the mythical Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago; the ancient Seelbach Hotel in Louisville). Krista is an artist, sommelier, and cocktail maven, too. Their vision for the Expat: to create a valentine to the Lost Generation of American writers who fled to Paris in the 1920s, even as preserving their personal joie de vivre intact.
Open a touch greater than 12 months; the Expat is the sleeper hit of the northeast Georgia dining network, proof that hiring govt chef Savannah Sasser may properly be the smartest thing the Slaters ever did (after locating every other direction). In Atlanta, the classically educated Sasser was a strong practitioner of the gastropub-style (Twain’s Brewpub & Billiards; Hampton + Hudson). In Athens, she has blossomed into a masterful chef who reinterprets the time-venerated classics of the French brasserie with modern flair and nearby luster. That the Slaters aren’t any slouches within the beverage department only seals the deal.
Rarely has a cocktail haunted me just like the Madame Sévérine: a Gibson-Vesper hybrid served in an elegant Nick and Nora glass and named for a doomed man or woman from the 2012 James Bond flick “Skyfall.” I’d fortuitously power to Athens for a tryst with Madame.
Suppose you want gin blended with bittersweet amaro, an l. A. The Negroni, attempt the Expat Cocktail. Ruby purple and redolent of cherry, it’s made with Junipero gin, the French aperitif Maurin Quina and a touch of Luxardo Maraschino. Bobbing with juniper berries and a bay leaf, Hints & Pinches betters the gin and tonic and pays homage to Southern bon vivant Eugene Walter, who penned a lexicon of herbs and spices with the name “Hints & Pinches.” The Trois miles Punch is a 3-rum doozy in a hefty brandy snifter, dolled up like a julep with a mound of pebble ice and a mint sprig. The Jets to Brazil beverages like a caipirinha with a sprint of creme de Violette. In short, I by no means met an Expat sipper I didn’t like.
As for the food, Sasser has a unique present for rillettes and pate, unctuous bread spreads, which are far higher cocktail accompaniments than the overtaxed oyster, in case you ask me. Her rabbit rillettes, presently paired with peach compote, are whipped with duck fats. They strike a chord in me of buttery fowl salad. Chicken liver pate, unfold on H&F Bread Co. Multigrain and crowned with paper-thin radish slices and a scattering of microgreens, was dangerously top.
Smoked trout with creme fraiche, caviar, and potato-chip scoops changed into quality, although no longer pretty interesting because it sounded. But the spring toast, layered with citrusy white cheese, fried favas, green-onion vinaigrette, and a veil of great little plants and leaves, turned into a knockout.
Most of the escargot we come across in French restaurants is soaking wet in garlic and butter. Here, for the primary time in my life, I tasted the musty, under-the-flower-pot funk of the snail itself, and I rather appreciated it. If all else fails, get the gougeres. Sasser’s five fist-sized cheese puffs are textbook.
The chef additionally makes a memorable burger: two Brasstown Beef patties with quick crunchy pickles, onion marmalade, creamy-tangy cow’s milk cheese from Hobo Cheese Co., a combination of vegetables, and smoked-garlic aioli. No ketchup, no tomato, no mustard, no special sauce, no American cheese. It’s an elegant, authentic, and not ridiculously over-the-top stack, superb with the crispy pomme frites. (Make certain you get a few aiolis for those fries.)